you fearful of death? Or ready for it? Or glad for it? Most people just ignore
it, knowing it’s going to happen, but not now and not soon.

we don’t have a choice. On September 26, 1950, when I was 22 years old, I was
with the Navy in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Korea. The gunnery officer
spotted some box cars on a railroad siding near the shore. The captain decided
to close the range and destroy them with gunfire. We were at battle stations.
My battle station was in the gunnery plotting room one deck below the main deck
on the port side of the ship. I was the officer in charge of gunnery plot. I
received a telephone call from my boss, the gunnery officer. He ordered me up
to the main battery director above the bridge, where he was stationed with the
range finder. I objected, because we were at general quarters (preparing for
battle), and it is a court-martial offense to leave your battle station when
the ship is at general quarters. He ordered me to come up anyway.

left the chief petty officer in charge of gunnery plot and went up to see him.
When I arrived, he had no idea why he had ordered me up there. I told him I
would be back in gunnery plot, and he could give me another call if he
remembered. He said, “You stay here.” So I stayed there with nothing to do.

I was there, we struck an underwater mine on the port side, directly underneath
my battle station. The explosion obliterated gunnery plot. The man I left in
charge was killed. Only one man was pulled out alive. The rest of the men were
killed instantly.

evening, after we partly recovered from the explosion, the executive officer
came to me. He said, “We are going to bury the chief petty officer at sea.” The
other men who were killed could not be recovered from the damaged part of the
ship until we reached port. He said, “Mr. Wilson, you’re the Christian on this
ship. You will conduct the funeral.” I was only 22 years old. I was in charge
of the funeral for the man who died in place of me. I have never forgotten
that. At 22, I was very conscious of death.

next ship I was on was hit by gunfire; one man was killed, and he was standing not
far from me. That made me think of death. It also made me realize that I was
not afraid. Many years later, I was reading the diary of the ship’s captain. He
said, “Wilson is not afraid under fire.” Although I didn’t think about it much,
I knew I wasn’t afraid, because I saw people who were, and they acted very
differently. But I hadn’t realized other people could see it.

years later, I had quadruple-bypass heart surgery. I was not afraid to die
then, either. I am now 91.*

favorite passage of Scripture is Psalm 91. I can identify with it, including
the last line, which speaks of long life.

Whoever dwells in the shelter
of the Most High

rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my
refuge and my fortress,

God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
the fowler’s snare

from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
under his wings you will find refuge;

faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
thousand at your right hand,

it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
you make the Most High your dwelling,

no harm will overtake you,
disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,
that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because heloves
me,” says the
Lord, “I will
rescue him;

will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call on me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble,

will deliver him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him
show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91)

has given me long life. Being 91 years old, I am close to dying again. I am not
fearful of it. It is a given. I am not anticipating it, either, so it will
probably catch me by surprise. I want to say it again: I am not afraid to die.
The reason for this is that since I came to know the Father through the Son
when I was 20 years old, I have been sure of my salvation. To die just means
more life.

*Written June 2019. Jim Wilson received his promotion to
glory in 2022.

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